Caroline Noublanche - ApricityCaroline Noublanche is the founder and CEO of the world’s first virtual fertility startup, called Apricity. 

Apricity’s digital solution provides access to world-class fertility advisors and assists patients with a fully customised journey, all easily navigated through a mobile app. It also uses AI to develop tools to maximise chances of conception for women.

Caroline Noublanche is an experienced entrepreneur. Before launching Apricity, she co-founded mobile app Prylos which, aged 27, she sold to Swedish giant Doro AB in 2011. Later she joined the AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’. Caroline also promotes a truly diverse workforce, with women making up four out of five of Apricity’s C-Suite.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My journey as an entrepreneur started fairly young. I founded my first company, mobile app developer PRYLOS, when I was 27, and sold it to Swedish telecoms giant Doro AB in 2011, where I became vice president.

More recently, I joined AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’ to help them build and launch disruptive startups in the health tech space. I recognised that IVF had experienced very little digital transformation in the past 40 years and was an area in need of disruption – this led me to found Apricity, the world’s first virtual fertility clinic, in 2018.

Traditional fertility treatment is one of the most stressful and emotionally draining journeys you can go through. Apricity manages a fully-customised treatment journey that’s easily navigated through a mobile app. It matches patients to world-class fertility experts, where they can enjoy virtual consultations, and to counsellors who are available for virtual sessions seven days a week. Our aim is to make sure our patients can do as much of the IVF treatment from their homes as possible, and are emotionally supported from beginning to end. This has proven particularly important in the context of COVID-19, where remote consultations and tests have been the only option for most patients.

Working alongside some of the leading fertility researchers and AI specialists, we’re also developing cutting-edge products that better understand the factors affecting fertility and maximise the chances of conception. As CEO, my main role is to lead the business’ growth and momentum, while continuing to provide an excellent service for our patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I sat down and strategically planned it, but it’s always been important for me to see a clear trajectory to my career. I’m someone who’s always looking to improve and develop, and the diversity of experiences and roles I’ve had throughout my career have given me the opportunity to build a strong professional skill set.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Something that comes from being very driven is that sometimes you have to understand that not everyone is going to care as much as you do. I always expect the best from the people I work with, but the reality is you can’t expect people to always be on their A game all the time. That said, if a colleague is consistently underperforming, it’s important to be very upfront and transparent with them. Those conversations can be challenging but they’re an inevitable part of running any business.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m not very good at reflecting on my achievements, as I’m constantly looking towards my next milestone. So as soon as I’ve achieved a goal, I’ll consider it done and put all my focus on the next goal – but I’m trying to take more time to reflect as I think it’s an important thing to do!

At Apricity, one of my biggest achievements is helping to scale and grow the team in such a short space of time. What started out as a team of three in 2018 is now a team of 35 across three offices, only two years on. But overall, I’m most proud of what we’re working towards on a day-to-day basis – we’re a company with a truly meaningful purpose, dedicated to helping people through one of the most pivotal things they’ll ever experience.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I’m very driven by nature and I like to channel that energy into the rest of my team. I’m always keen to share my visions with them, and to encourage and inspire motivation about what we’re working towards. That ability to look ahead has definitely helped me to date – as a startup, you always need to be aiming towards the next thing.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

Never stop questioning yourself. Even if you’re doing a good job, you have to continue looking at how you can do things better. At Apricity, we have three core values for how we approach our work – excellence, care and empowerment. In technology, particularly in the healthcare domain, you should always be striving for excellence – that’s not the same as striving for perfection, which we all know doesn’t exist.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Barriers definitely persist for women in tech – the proof is in the statistics, as tech companies today are still predominantly male. It’s also true that in specific job roles, developers being a prime example, it’s more difficult to find female talent – this comes back to the need for more inclusive STEM learning at the early stages as well as more role models for young girls to look up to.

There is also the very real factor of ‘imposter syndrome’, a recently coined term which disproportionately affects women. As a CEO, I’m acutely aware that women are less likely to proactively ask for a promotion or pay rise, as society doesn’t teach women to be confident and assertive in the same way it does men. Hopefully this is starting to change though.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Tech companies need to be more rigorous when it comes to onboarding women at all levels. At Apricity, more than 50 per cent of our workforce is women, which is something I’ve made a conscious effort to maintain.

I also see it as one of my responsibilities to mentor the women in my team, by helping them grow in confidence and develop their skills. When I hear someone doubting themselves, I notice it and try to help them question those thinking patterns. Female leaders are naturally in a much better position to help enact this change, and this is why it’s so important companies are hiring women at the top. Likewise, it’s important for women to see more female representation at a senior leadership level so it becomes normalised.

Last but definitely not least, companies need to make sure their working practices accommodate working mothers. Too often, women still feel they have to choose between having a great career and a family because their workplaces don’t sufficiently adapt to fit their needs – this should absolutely not be the case in 2020.

Currently only 17 per cent of tech positions are made up of women, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

If I could wave a magic wand, I would magic up more female role models in the world, including perhaps a female president of the United States or in France (where I live). Germany and New Zealand are great examples of countries led successfully by women. I think having major global role models like this goes a long way in showing younger generations what women can achieve.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recently read a great book called ‘Lead With Respect’ by Michael Balle, which I’d recommend. The story follows the dialogue between a female CEO and an IT customer and is centred around different use cases within the practice of lean management, a leadership style we follow at Apricity.

I’d add that networking opportunities are also an essential resource and something women don’t always consider high priority, but end up sacrificing for lack of time. I’d recommend always helping others and trying to do favours where you can, as you never know when you might want a favour from them in the future.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.